So Congressional GOP members want to extend Mississippi’s asinine personhood amendment to the whole country. Caperton wrote about the Mississippi bill, and detailed many of the ridiculous ways it will interfere with basic rights — one of the goals of the bill is to outlaw many forms of birth control, and it will undoubtedly be used to criminally prosecute women who miscarry. Jessica Valenti also wrote a must-read article for the Washington Post.
Sixty-three House Republicans, or over a quarter of the GOP conference, are cosponsors of HR 212, Rep. Paul Broun’s (R-Ga.) “Sanctity of Human Life Act,” which includes language that directly parallels that of the Mississippi personhood amendment. That bill declares that “the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent…at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.”
Not only is this not a fringe GOP issue — a quarter of the GOP conference are cosponsors – but the bill itself (and the Mississippi bill, obviously) includes language that is startlingly broad, scientifically dubious and entirely ludicrous. If a fertilized egg is a human being, and if at the moment of fertilization that egg shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood, we are in a lot of trouble — and not just in the standard “birth control is going to be illegal” way.
First of all, how are we going to count the population? Mandatory monthly/weekly/daily pregnancy tests? That won’t even work, since this bill isn’t about pregnancy — it’s about fertilization. But the anti-choice movement has been so successful at conflating those terms that folks don’t really seem to understand what’s what. And I know a lot of pro-life GOPpers don’t like “science” and “facts” so much, but a quick 5th grade sex ed lesson: When a person with a vagina, ovaries and a uterus (among other parts) has vaginal sex with a person with a penis and testicles (among other parts), and when both of those peoples’ bodies are still respectively producing eggs and sperm, and when the penis-holding person ejaculates into the vagina-holding person’s vagina, sometimes those little sperms swim up and fertilize an egg. But, despite the speed at which semen appears to travel in pornographic movies, the fertilization process doesn’t happen immediately. It takes the sperm a while to swim up there; the sperm can also live for a few days (and sometimes for a week or more, even though usually, sperm die in about 48 hours). In the meantime, if the ovaries release a fertilizable egg into the fallopian tube, a sperm might fertilize it. But while fertilization might happen the same day as the sex act, it might also happen two or three days after. And even then, you aren’t pregnant. The fertilized egg has to produce a bunch of cells and travel to the uterus, where it then implants — so we’re talking a good week until pregnancy actually happens.
So! A pregnancy test isn’t going to cut it, because there could be a person in there — a person who has full constitutional rights and privileges– for a week or more before the incubator registers as pregnant. We’re going to have to figure out some way to test for fertilization, and then some other way to make sure that every ovary-holding person of reproductive age gets a mandatory test every day. Could be good for the economy, at least — you’ll be adding a lot of jobs, when you take into account all of the testing centers, data-keepers, and law enforcement officials necessary to carry this out.
And let me tell you, the data is not going to be pretty. Prepare for the United States to have the highest mortality rate in the world, and for our average lifespan to drop by a whole lot. Sure, that’ll make you and I feel better when we live past 25 (the age of death for the average American), but I fear it’ll be bad for comparative and public health purposes. You see, the majority of fertilized eggs don’t implant in the uterus, and are naturally flushed out of the body before there’s ever a pregnancy. But if those eggs are people, surely we need to count them in our death rates. And those eggs died at somewhere around negative ten months. I’m just saying, this is going to make our numbers look real bad.
And it’s not just a numbers game, of course. All of these flushed-out eggs — and then all of the pregnancies that end naturally before birth through miscarriage — are human deaths that need to be documented and investigated. If a person with a uterus is making that uterus a hostile environment for a fertilized egg, and their choices contributed to the egg not implanting and therefore dying, well… how could we as a society not investigate that and potentially prosecute them? If a fertilized egg really has all of the same rights and privileges as you or I, we can’t just look the other way when they perish, especially if their deaths were preventable. We should definitely be focusing on uterus-holders who make decisions that are known to create inhospitable uteruses — people with BMIs below 18.5 (eat a sandwich!); people who drink lots of coffee or other caffeinated beverages; people who smoke; people who don’t eat red meat; people who don’t exercise regularly; people who do exercise but do things that are aerobic, strenuous or bouncy during potential implantation time; and people who have high stress levels. (I just checked off like half of those boxes. My uterus is a killing machine). Sure, we’re not going to prosecute you for murder just because you’re a stressball who doesn’t exercise enough — that would be crazy, let’s not be silly! — but facts are facts, ma’am, and let’s be real here about your criminally negligent behavior.
(Ironically, a sexually active uterus-holder who uses hormonal birth control — which prevents ovulation and, despite the totally unsubstantiated claims of pro-lifers, actually doesn’t appear to interfere with a fertilized egg — is almost definitely killing fewer fertilized eggs than a sexually active uterus-holder who doesn’t use birth control, since the birth control user is preventing fertilization in the first place, whereas the non-birth-control-user is likely having some fertilized eggs die. But that’s clearly a side issue).
Of course, that’s just during the pre-implantation stage, and those are just the things that might make a fertilized egg not implant in the first place. Once that egg is implanted, you’d better not do anything that could contribute to its demise or cause it any amount of harm. That means no sports like skiing; no caffeine; no alcohol; no fish with potentially high mercury levels; no cold cuts; no soft cheeses; no smoking; no stress; no contact with chemicals; etc etc. And don’t even get me started on fat people or skinny people, or people who don’t center their entire diets around fresh organic food, or who do idiotic things like ride on public transportation (putting them into contact with germs) or drive in cars (putting them in danger of accidents). I’d say you’re probably best off just staying at home in a padded room, but we all know that exercise is crucial, so you must exercise enough — just not too much. What constitutes “enough” and “too much” will, I’m sure, be determined by prosecutors and the court system over time. You can’t expect congressmen to think of every little thing.
So far this works out pretty well, since the onus to keep the fertilized egg alive and in perfect shape is laid on the egg’s incubator, who will also suffer the punishment if s/he fails in any way. But then there’s the whole “extending Constitutional rights and social services to an egg” thing. This gets tricky, since pro-life Republicans tend to hate social services that help born people, including babies. They’re going to have to suck it up, though, because once that egg gets a Social Security card, it deserves its due. Eggs are entitled to health care, to welfare, to food stamps, etc etc. Of course, some of this can be offset by the egg’s parents, and their inevitable battles over issues like custody, visitation and child support in the pre-baby stage. Certainly a father should have the right to spend just weekends with his egg, even if the uterus-holder isn’t super excited about that idea. Oh and filing your taxes is going to be a real bitch, but maybe Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan will remedy the situation.
One last issue is twins. Sorry, identical twins, but you’re going to have to get even more used to sharing, since both of you are basically one person. Oh and you freaks who were twins in utero that then fused back together a couple of weeks after fertilization, resulting in a single born person? I dunno, maybe you’ll get lucky and get twice the rights and benefits. You’re also kind of a cannibal, though, so we’ll see. Again, we’re going to have to leave this one to the courts. I’m sure you’ll be fine.
On the plus side, this means that a lot of folks can now drive in the carpool lane, so long as someone has recently ejaculated in them. It may mean that not as many full-grown people can ride in elevators, though. There are pluses and minuses to everything, I guess.